Emily Hall: Let’s Talk About Burnout

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, Fanbytes Junior Campaign Manager Emily Hall discusses the buzzword ‘Burnout’ - what it means, how to talk about it, and how to manage it.
Fanbytes | Emily Hall - Burnout - Mental Health Awareness Week

Whilst sitting on a train passing through London, I overheard a woman in her 30s discussing her work drama with a friend. A particular phrase she said stuck with me: “I don’t have time to be burnt out, I have too much to do’’. An ironic sentence, and one which made me feel awfully sad. The term ‘burnout’ is often thrown around in conversations regarding the workplace, somewhat diminishing its severity and neglecting to acknowledge its consequences. But what does burnout actually mean?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised Burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon back in 2019. Mental Health UK defines burnout as ‘a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is more than a stressful Monday morning meeting, or having to skip a lunch break due to a looming deadline. The key word to focus on here is ‘exhaustion’. Burnout is characterised by a feeling of complete debilitation and defeat by stress and anxiety.

This is not a term which should be used flippantly, or regarded as just another Gen Z or millennial phrase to be thoughtlessly adopted into regular conversation. 

The Chronicle of Higher Education termed Gen Z as a ‘woke generation, engaged and interested in cultural and political movements and subject matters. It makes sense that this younger generation is more willing and comfortable in talking openly about mental health. This familiarity does present the possible risk of becoming ‘too comfortable’ with words that pertain to very difficult subject matters, however. Terms like ‘burnout’ are entering the general vernacular, removing their stigma – but also eroding their recognition as a genuine mental health condition. This brings with it the potential to diminish the desire or understanding to seek professional help and the necessary guidance to overcome it.

Should we be talking about burnout on social media?

At the ripe age of 24, I finally feel comfortable, if not empowered, in talking about my mental health and particularly the problems I have faced because of it. It is wonderful that discourse surrounding mental health is becoming more accepted and normalised, both in real life and online.

Social media should never take the place of a medically accredited professional if you are suffering with your mental health. As we discussed in our article about TikTok and mental health, it’s vital that mental health social content doesn’t compete with, but rather supports a user’s choice to seek legitimate help

However, mental health social content does have the incredibly valuable capability to shed light on important issues and offer support and reassurance. Hearing that other people have experienced or are going through similar things to yourself can be a true lifeline and validate your emotions. This is particularly important for those struggling with their mental health, as it can silence some of the intrusive thoughts which make you believe you’re an anomaly, and the only person to have ever felt this way.

Fanbytes have seen an enormous increase in searches for and content creation around mental health content on TikTok since 2020, and it’s a subject that we don’t see Gen Zers losing interest in any time soon. As more young people become accustomed to learning from and interacting with mental health content on social media, it will become increasingly important that users learn to recognise sources of legitimate information.

Meanwhile, a suitable level of education and understanding is needed in order to adequately meet people’s growing needs and queries regarding mental health.

A study by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a whopping 50% of ALL work-related ill health cases were due to stress, depression or anxiety. A staggering number, but one which, unfortunately, isn’t surprising. The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it many changes affecting our work environments. Striking a healthy work/life balance has therefore never been more important; to prevent burnout and eliminate the risk of stress from your professional life seeping into your personal life.

So, what can we do to prevent ourselves from feeling ‘burnout’? Is there even such a way?

How to manage burnout

Managing or preventing burnout looks different to different people, but there are a few practices that can help. Let me share with you my personal ABC checklist of things to consider if you feel the ol’ burnout creeping in.

A - Be Affectionate

‘Self care’ is another phrase relating to mental health which is thrown around, sometimes rather flippantly. It is about more than just having a nice bubble bath and lighting a candle. It is about truly showing yourself some love and affection, in whatever shape or form that may be. Perhaps that is doing exercise, being creative in some way, calling up a friend, or meditating. Self care can be anything that allows you to put yourself first. Being kind and affectionate to yourself can be really challenging but is so important.

B - Set Boundaries

Allow yourself to set boundaries, within the workplace, your social life, and any aspect of your life where you feel it’s needed. It is okay to say “no” to social plans and allow your social battery to recharge. People won’t judge you for it, and if they do, maybe reconsider who you spend your time with! Be honest with colleagues and co-workers regarding work expectations, and don’t agree to something if you know it’s going to be detrimental to your mental wellbeing.

C - Resist Comparisons

Just because your mum’s friend Julie on Facebook has been to pilates, gone grocery shopping and is now re-organising her pantry all before 10am on Wednesday, that doesn’t mean your day is any less productive. Productivity will look very different for different people. For some, getting out of bed, having a shower, and eating 3 meals is something to be celebrated. Try not to compare yourself to other people and their accomplishments.

Knowing yourself, and recognising patterns in your behaviour and wellbeing is arguably one of the best ways to prevent burnout. But as always with your mental health, seeking professional help, and talking about your experiences is SO valuable, both for you and others.

What should brands take away from this?

Engaging young people on the subject of mental health has never been so important. Gen Z are the most likely generation to report mental health struggles – in part due to their increased openness to discuss the subject, but also because the pandemic has disproportionately affected them

For employers of Gen Z and brands that market to them, tackling burnout is vital for both retaining the best talent, but also attracting the most engaged new customers. Simply tapping the ‘burnout’ buzzword is not enough: brands should address concerns internally (Gen Z have a keen eye for inauthentic brand activity) and use marketing initiatives to offer genuine help to young people. For inspiration, we’ve listed the best mental health campaigns here

If you’d like to understand more about how to engage meaningfully with Gen Z on mental health matters or create a comprehensive mental health campaign, get in contact. We’ll talk you through how you can use your marketing efforts to uplift young people and become a force for good in the mental health conversation.


We’ve written about mental health for Gen Z before. Check out the links below to help deepen your understanding:


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